Mark Rymell’s Pier Project

I have to admit that I am one of the world’s worst hoarders. Fiercely sentimental, I have a real problem in throwing things away and keep every letter I receive from personal friends would you believe!

It will not surprise you one iota then that I am also a ‘cuttings man’ and have amassed quite an archive over the years. As a kid I loved scrapbooks and enjoyed filling them with photos and articles on my favourite pop stars (moving on to my fave ‘page 3 girls’ as a teenager!) and my fascination with recording history and archiving has never gone away.

As you can well imagine, however, such an interest causes considerable problems with ‘space’ and so I am forever trying to find ways of ‘keeping everything but getting rid of stuff!’ My latest ‘excursion’ into this process is to take digital photographs of cuttings I want to keep and then arrange them into albums on my computer hard-drive. So far, this idea is working well and once I am satisfied I have a good quality image of an article or picture (and have saved a ‘back up’ somewhere safe) I am happy (ish) to throw the original newspaper or magazine away.

So what has all this got to do with the price of milk I hear you ask?

Well, the other afternoon, I was going through some of my old Hastings Observers and I came across an article from March 2010 about a local man, Mark Rymell, who was in the process of writing and compiling a chronicle of Hastings Pier’s importance as a musical venue. Considering that the pier (at its iconic ballroom) has since been destroyed by fire and puzzled as to why sixteen months on Mark’s book has still not been published, I decided to contact Mark and get the latest news on the book for HT.

Mark Rymell

Mark sort out His Memorabilia
Mark sort out His Memorabilia

As the article included an e-mail address for Mark, I didn’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to trace him and so following a few messages back and forth and a couple of phone conversations Mark agreed to meet me at my home in Hollington on the 26th of July.

Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd

Arriving wearing the same yellow ‘Jimi Hendrix – Hastings Pavilion’ t shirt he had on when pictured in the Observer, Mark brought his laptop and a bundle of replica posters to show me.

Mark proved to be a very easy person to talk with and casually chatting (as you do) before getting around to discussing his book, I soon began to feel as if I’d known him for years. Incredibly, it soon proved that I might indeed have known Mark for years! Like me, back in the 1980’s, Mark had been a D.J. and amongst other things had looked after the entertainment at The Sailing Club. A regular customer of Stylus Records Mark said that he used to pop in on a Saturday to listen to the new releases and buy some new records each week. Neither of us recalled meeting the other though which was a bit strange but it was all a long time ago now and Mark said that he used to deal mainly with a friend of his who worked there called Pete anyway. I do remember Pete but he left not long after I started and for most of my time at Stylus I did not work Saturdays as I worked at Flamingos nightclub in Queens Road on Friday and Saturday nights and had an arrangement with my boss, Nelson DeSouza, which let me do Sunday’s at the shop instead (although to open Sunday’s in those days was illegal for a record shop!).

In the comfort of my front room, talking about Stylus, its characters and how different things were in the early 80’s, Mark and I soon became engrossed in the type of conversation only those of you who have a burning passion about something (and are regularly being told to stop boring people about!) will understand. Poor old Mark, so carried away was I in fact that it wasn’t until a good two and a half hours later that my MUM offered to make him a drink! What a rotten host I am, eh?

Onto the book…

So, what is the latest news on Mark’s book?

The working title for the book is ‘The Pier That Rocked – A History of Rock and Pop on Hastings Pier’ but Mark is still amassing information and memorabilia at this stage before deciding on what exactly will make the final book.

“ I have a mate who’s a printer and the plan at the moment is to print up 100 copies or so and see how I go from there really. I think I probably have about as much stuff for the book as I’m going to get now but there are still a few people I would like to get quotes from or would like to contact in case they have something special they would be prepared to let me photograph and use”.

Roger Daltrey of The Who is one of the famous people Mark has spoken to about the book…

“I met Roger, his manager and Paul Roberts (ex Stranglers vocalist) while they were in Hastings to judge the Hastings Musical Festival. Roger was really friendly and did his best to help answer my questions – especially regarding a local myth about Hastings Musical Festivalsetting fire to a set of drums and throwing them off the end of the pier! Paul was also keen to help and I have asked him if he could put me in touch with some of the other Stranglers. Dave Greenfield (the bands keyboard player) is from Brighton originally so he will understand all about the magic of piers – I’m sure I could get a quote or two from him for the book.”

But Mark has also spoken to and been helped by a plethora of Hastings best known and loved musical characters…

Alan Esdaile (a.k.a. ‘Johnny Mason’ (D.J. on the pier and Hastings Observer columnist), Mick Mepham (Die Laughing), Clive Richardson (Promoter) and Brian Baker (played in various bands on the pier) have all provided Mark with personal photos memorabilia and memories and some of the items Mark showed me on his laptop are sure to be of interest to collectors and musical historians.

“I have a photo of The Rolling Stones that was allegedly taken on Hastings Beach and the last time Pink Floyd performed with Syd Barrett was on Hastings Pier apparently.”

From what I have seen, I think Mark’s book will become a bit of a local legend. To be complied in such a way as to include loads of lists, plenty of facts and figures, a host of memories and memorabilia, potted histories and a smattering of quotes, the book looks certain to become the ultimate ‘coffee table scrapbook’ and something to fuel many conversations that will last into the early hours of the morning.

In fact, it was one such conversation, which inspired Mark to begin ‘looking into’ the subject in the first place…

“I got this Jimi Hendrix – Hastings Pavilion one year for Christmas. One day not long after I got chatting with a mate about all of the famous bands and artists who must have played there in the past. My friend happened to mention how good it would be if there was a list and so I thought I’d look into it”.

So, how come it is taking you so long to complete and publish the book I asked? (Cheeky git I know but as one of the last people to perform live on the old pier (a story for another day) I want a copy!)

“The main problem apart from time is that I worry that I will get something really special just after I have published the book. It’s for precisely that reason I’m thinking of just getting a 100 or so done at a time.

Reassuringly though, for those of us who are indeed ‘gagging for a copy’ Mark does seem pretty focused and enthusiastic about the prospect of publishing at least a limited amount of copies quite soon.

“I know I have to do this because everybody I talk to tells me they want a copy!” he says with a chuckle.

In order to inspire him into action, I told him how important a piece of work I felt his book was now likely to be. After all, with the Pier no more and that whole era of pop/rock music, the charts and young up-and-coming bands gigging their socks off to try and build up a following seemingly a thing of the

past, a book like ‘The Pier That Rocked’ may just prove to be of incredible historic and social value to future generations. I certainly want a copy and feel there is considerably more mileage sales wise in Mark’s book than he presently realizes.

‘Baggsy’ one of the first 100 copies!


Mark is pictured here in my front room with a selection of the replica posters and concert tickets he brought ‘round to show me in front of him on my coffee table. A regular researcher at Hastings Library, Mark was given the collection following a recent exhibition at the library where they were used on notice boards.

If you would like to speak with Mark or have anything you think might be of interest to him regarding the project (Mark tells me he would dearly love to hear from a ‘Keith Took’ whose name he’s been given repeatedly) here are his contact details…

Mark Rymell. 9 St Marys Terrace Hastings, East Sussex TN34 3LS Tel: 01424 436648 Mob: 07900 868681 E mail: [email protected] (mark (underscore) rymell at

Hastings Town September 2011

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